Dec 25

The Dichotomy Between Science and Spirituality

One definition of science is, “A branch of knowledge based on objectivity and involving observation and experimentation”. Spirituality by contrast often focuses on the personal subjective experience.

Science attempts to gain knowledge piecemeal through experiment and observation while spirituality attempts to gain knowledge directly from the source, all that is, God, whatever label you wish to use.

Somewhere philosophy gets mixed up in this two, since it involves a study of truths and principles of knowledge, being, existence.

I do not pursue these things separately. It is not possible to pursue either science or spirituality without a philosophical framework that defines what knowledge is valid and the valid methods towards it’s obtainment.

My view is that the absolute truth is unknowable to us as individual entities, we can only have operative theories of varying degrees of confidence and over time try to revise those theories into ever closer more detailed approximations of reality. Even Rene Descartes, “Cognito ergo sum”, “I think, therefore I am”, is not as certain as it seems because there is an inherent assumption that “I” is a discrete and separate entity, but we may not be, we may be but a drop in an ocean of consciousness, presently disconnected, but part of a greater whole. I lean heavily towards this view. As my collection of operative theories go, I have assigned this one has a high level of confidence.

I recently ran across a book on the discount table at Border Books by Gary Zukav entitled, “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” (authored by Gary Zukav). I was persuaded to let go of $7.99 by the acknowledgments, the very first person credited was “Jack Sarfatti, PhD”, whom is someone I am familiar with and have a great deal of respect for. I don’t think genius gives this man enough credit, in my view he is one of the greatest thinkers in history, right up there with Rene Descartes and Leonardo Da Vinci. I can also state, through my experience with corresponding with him, that he is an extremely cordial person, willing to talk to the lay person.

A book that started the acknowledgments with his name was a book I had to obtain and read. I’ve only just started to get into it, but just the explanation of how the title came about contained valuable information. Gary Zukav describes an encounter at a physics conference in Big Sur in which he met Al Chung-liang Huang who studied physics in Taiwan. There, he explained, it is called “wu li” (物理), which means, patterns of organic energy.

In Chinese, most words have multiple meanings which are discerned both by tone and context. In this case, “wu” (物) refers to matter or energy, and “li” (理), to the pattern. The grain in wood, that is “li” (理), the pattern on a leaf, that is “li” (理), and so on. This was a term that resonated with Gary Zukav and so became the title of his book.

It’s also a term that resonates with me because many years ago I noticed patterns in nature, when you injure skin and you can see the granularity of the cell structure underneath the exterior, you can feel that living energy, or at least I can. When you see a photograph of the granules on the sun it is recognizable as the same energy, at least to me. It pervades nature. I had no word for it, now I do, it is “li” (理).

There is a personal joy in this discovery. I am studying Chinese. One of the reasons I chose to study Chinese is that years ago I learned Swedish well enough to think in Swedish, and when I did I found my whole view of the world was different, my view of self was different, expanded, and more complete. I often found I could think things in Swedish that I could not accurately translate to English even though the latter is my native tongue, there were nuances for which no exact English word existed, or that I could even substitute an English phrase for. I came to understand that learning Swedish had actually expanded my ability to think. I reasons that the further a language was from English, the more expansion would result and Chinese is substantially different in many ways.

I had other reasons for wanting to learn Chinese. I am interested in the origins of man and civilization and China has the worlds oldest contiguous culture. If you try to read an old English document say something written three hundred years ago, it’s a challenge. By contrast, I found a Chinese star chart on the net dated to 1500 BC, 3500 years ago, and I was able to recognize every symbol on that chart save for one, and that one was also not recognized by my instructor who was a native Chinese speaker.

The contiguous culture also made for a contiguous logically structured language. Complex Chinese words are made up of simpler Chinese root words. Very different from English where most of the roots are based in Latin, which in turn borrowed from the Phoneticians who in turn borrowed from the Egyptians. This makes it very easy to understand how words, concepts, and ideas evolved in China.

There were other reasons as well, from a business perspective China is an emerging market that will in time be the worlds largest market. And then there is the more shallow reason, I enjoy Chinese films and wanted to be able to understand them in their native language so that I would not miss nuances lost in translation.

So given that background, discovering this term for physics, “wu li” (物理) which provides a much broader and encompassing description of physics than the western term, was a meaningful and satisfying experience. The western term conjures up images of insanely complex mathematical formulas scribbled on a chalk board. This is the image that I get when I think specifically of string theorists. It’s not the view of what I think physics should be, but wu li describes it better.

The individual terms that comprise the word for physics, “wu” (物) meaning matter or energy or simply things, something that happens to agree with my view of the material world, I am of the belief that matter and energy are not transformations of each other but simply different perspectives of the same thing, wu, (物), and herein lie one word that encompasses that concept. The term “li” (理), again a term that describes a concept I previously had no word for. The pattern of organic energy, it was a concept without a label, a concept that I had difficulty communicating for lack of a word, now I have a word. This is joyful for me.

That words describing these concepts, concepts that were previously orphans in my mind, no parent word to describe them, now they had words, and from the very language I had been studying in part to do exactly this. I am not a believer in coincidence, I am a believer in synchronicities. Coincidence implies circumstantial relationship which occurs strictly by random chance, synchronicity implies an underlying connection and that’s part of my view of the universe, that everything is connected and has purpose.

I believe science, and particular the field of physics, spirituality, and philosophy are all related and to evolve must co-evolve. They are all about trying to understand the nature of reality, they are different methods of examining the same reality and the more perspectives we get of reality, the more complete our knowledge will be.

Regarding the scientific approach, the idea of objective observation and experimentation, is impossible in the pure sense because in order to collect information, an observer must be involved and we are incapable of observing something outside of our own subjective experiential context. At best we can arrive at some kind of subjective consensual understanding of reality, not an absolute objective understanding.

Since eliminating subjectivity entirely is not possible, or goal then must be to acknowledge and understand our subjectivity and integrate that understanding into our process of gaining knowledge and the knowledge that results from that process.

Towards that end, let’s look at subjectivity so that we might understand it better. On the surface, we are inclined to think of subjectivity as an undesirable distortion of data as the result of filtering it through our imperfect sensory apparatus, and through our personal biases.

Subjectivity is more than that, as an observer, we unintentionally alters that which we observe. Quantum mechanics tells us this is so. I believe it goes further still, I believe that our intent also alters what we observe.

I’ll go out on a limb here and state my own personal bias, my subjective take on the nature of reality, and that is that our reality is formed and affected by our intents. I believe that our interaction with reality is entirely bidirectional and fluid.

In understanding subjectivity then we must not only account for the unintended affects on the observed, but the effect of our intents as well, the two way connection that exists between us and the reality we are attempting to observe.

Given this I still believe there is value in attempting to observe as objectively as possible and also observe as subjectively as possible. Two different perspectives on the same reality gives us a clearer more complete view of that reality. Further, studying the differences between as objective of a view of reality as we can get and our most subjective view can tell us a great deal about ourselves.

Well, unfortunately, I’m going to have to cut it short here, because I’ve got to get some sleep before a Christmas dinner with friends, but suffice it to say that I feel very good about this book, and very good about the prospect for gaining a clearer view of the universe.

All of that said, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Quanza, or whatever holiday or cultural practice you might have associated with the time of year near the winter solstice.

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Dec 20

The Role of Language In Intelligence

An article in PhysOrg.com offers a complicated explanation of why human intelligence has decreased having to do with the intense competition of memes and the fact that large brains make for hazardous births and consume much of the bodies metabolic resources.

Their explanation might make sense for the reduction in brain size between Neanderthals and modern man from 1600cc to 1200cc. However, I think the assumption that intelligence has been reduced is erroneous. Brain size need not be directly correlated to intelligence and I can think of one mechanism that allowed a brain to shrink without losing functionality, that mechanism is language.

We tend to think of language as primarily serving a communications function. I believe it is also modern man’s data compression algorithm. Think about an apple, without labels to attach to various attributes, it’s round, but only approximately so, it has a stem, it’s usually red, maybe some greens and yellows, it has a characteristic pattern. With these labels we can represent an apple mentally well enough to recognize one when we see it. What’s more the interlinking of other red things, blood, raspberries, cherries, these things give meaning to the label red, and in this case it’s more than data compression, it turns something abstract into something concrete.

Consider if we had no language, no way to assign labels to attributes. Instead, we’d have to store a bitmap essentially of the Apple, from all angles, and we’d have to do that for each Apple we encountered because they are different. The amount of data that represented would be huge, and the corresponding neural requirements large.

As we started to generalize and assign labels to attributes, the amount of storage capacity required to describe our world declined dramatically, which allowed us to make much better use of the gray matter that we have.

Prior to this development, the advantage of higher intelligence offset the disadvantages of a big brain, difficult births and a large metabolic liability. When we developed language and were able to store data about our world in highly compressed form, our huge brains became a liability and they shrunk. Language and intelligence continued to evolve, save for a few throwbacks (and you know who you are).

Language is most efficient at the task of data compression when large complex concepts are networked together as happens in real life experience or long complicated detailed involved fiction or in the learning of complex concepts where many labels can point to many other labels and make maximum use of each.

No, the decline in intelligence didn’t happen as a result of the reduction of brain volume from 1600cc to 1200cc, the decline in intelligence has happened only very recently with the widespread deployment of mind sucking machines known as televisions with their 20 second sound bytes and rich visual stimulation. All of that visual data, especially if it’s highly abstract, that eats up a lot of storage. The short sound bytes don’t give reveal the relationship between complex ideas and thus don’t develop the connections between the neurons that represent them. The lack of decent education has left many modern humans with an insufficient language base to use language effectively for either data compression or communications.

I believe that it television and related highly abstract stimulating phenomena that we experience visually but can not readily describe using language that is really sucking our intelligence down. Television could actually be a positive medium if used right. If for example, instead of a news program giving 60 20 second sound bytes interspersed with commercial breaks, if it instead of that it would go into each topic in depth, even if that meant it could not cover nearly as many, I believe we would benefit.

In the meantime we have to limit our television and other glitz media exposure and concentrate more of our time on more deep pursuits. Otherwise we are not going to have the intelligence to face the extreme challenges that are upon us now.

I would encourage you to exercise your language capacity, read big books, if you watch television stick to material like Connections (excellent show) or Nova which do cover the issues they address in depth. Find people with whom you can have long deep conversations about life’s meaning and the pursuit of happiness. Learn a second language, or a third, or a forth. I have found that this literally increases the universe of thought.

When you learn a second language and become fluent in it, enough that you start thinking in it, one of the things I found was that I was having thoughts that I could not accurately translate to my native language. Oh yes, I could translate approximately, but I found often the nuances were not translatable.

My native language is English but I learned Swedish and became fluent enough in it to think in it. My mood and my entire outlook on the world changed when I thought in Swedish, for the positive, and so I found myself preferring that language to English. But alas, all of the people I knew who spoke Swedish died two decades ago and now I’ve forgotten nearly all that I learned.

So much of the culture is encoded into language, that you can’t help but feel the presence of that culture when you learn and begin to think in it.

Now I am learning Chinese, and I am just getting to where I am starting to be able think in Mandarin. Still pretty rough though. My ability to “hear” it is still pretty bad, but I have had conversations in IRC with people in China in Chinese and I am getting to where I can actually usefully communicate. I have to look up some words, but I’m getting there.

As with Swedish, I am finding that I feel profoundly different when I think in Mandarin. With Swedish it was more of a feeling of happy freedom, with Chinese it’s a sense of connectedness and belonging and a re-ordering of priorities, and I find that very pleasant actually. There are enough Chinese speakers on the planet that once I get reasonably fluent practice should be easier to come by.

At any rate; that’s something you can do. I have found that I score approximately 12 points higher after having been studying Chinese for several years than before I started. I don’t know really what else I can attribute that to.

Our school system needs to do a better job of imparting language skills. In my business I run into so many people who are functionally illiterate that it is very disturbing. We also need ongoing adult education to maintain and expand our language skills. We need to get rid of the 20 second sound byte or the three paragraph newspaper article and start to discuss things in depth and understand the underlying complexities and become comfortable with those complexities so that when politicians try to over simply things we can know right off their just trying to manipulate us and make better decisions.

Speaking of decisions, I need to get some sleep now. Good night.

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Dec 17

Quantum Entanglement / Worldlines

This relates to my previous article regarding an interpretation of particle physics that explains quantum entanglement without the need for either spooky action at a distance or hidden variables.

There is a line of thought that time symmetry is broken based upon the measurements of the decay times of kaon’s and antikaon’s, however, I believe this to be an artifact of perspective.

If you were traveling in a train at 40 MPH, and along side the train track there is a two lane road, with a speed limit of 60 MPH, and cars are traveling in each direction along that track at the speed limit, then relative to you, cars traveling in the same direction as you are in the train would be going past you at 20 MPH relative to your speed but cars going in the opposite direction would be going 100 MPH relative to you (relativistic effects being negligible at these velocities). In this case you are measuring the speeds of traveling vehicles relative to your position on a moving train in a physical dimension.

However, in the case of measuring the decay times of the kaon and antikaon, we are observing the decays from our perspective moving, what we would consider forward, in time, not from a vantage point stationary in time.

So I do not believe this experiment proves an arrow of time except in as much as pointing towards our own journey through time, the observed asymmetry being explained by our own movement through time rather than a fundamental asymmetry existing in time itself.

I also discovered that I am not the first to think along the lines of a particle being reflected off the electromagnetic aspect in time. Take a look at this article.

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Dec 16

Quantum Entanglement / Light-Matter Interaction

Richard Feynman was a physicist I found fascinating. Particularly, I liked the way he had come up with a diagram system for particle interactions that made it very easy to follow.

One idea that I found most interesting about Dr. Feynman’s ideas regarding particle physics, is the idea that all particle interactions are reversible. Another idea that I found interesting is that anti-matter is matter moving backwards in time.

Instead of viewing this as an electron and positron “arriving” and annihilating each other resulting in two photons heading off in opposite directions, I realized that since the positron is traveling in the reverse direction in time, it isn’t “arriving” at this interaction, it is “leaving” it.

(I would diagram this Feynman style except the web absorbs spaces, and even if I try to hard code them the blogger turns them back into regular space and then they get absorbed. I tried to use tables to properly diagram them but blogger screwed those up badly).

So an electron moving forward in time arrives at this interaction and then an electron moving reverse in time (positron) leaves this interaction. It looks like a positron to us because we’re seeing it from the moving forward in time perspective).

But if an electron arrives and leaves, why should it be two separate particles? The answer is that it’s not, it’s an electron moving forward in time, interacting with two photons, and then turning around and moving backwards in time.

How is it that the photons just happen to be exactly the right energy to match the mass of the electron + positron? And they just happen to be created at that instant the electron decides to reverse direction in time? I think it’s because they are another aspect of the mass, the same particle / wave duality seen from a different time perspective.

We see the particle as mass when it’s moving forward in time in it’s frame of reference and ours. We see the particle as an anti-particle when it’s moving reverse in time as seen from our forward time perspective. We see it as energy when it’s not moving through time in it’s perspective but is moving in time (forward or reverse) in ours, and, because we can not see charge or spin, we can not distinguish which.

So in this view, we’re not seeing a particle and it’s antiparticle being annihilated and two photons being produced, we are seeing the same particle from different time perspectives.

It’s interesting to think about this way, the energy aspect of the particle exists in only one time from it’s perspective, the mass form of the particle moves forward in time, reflects in time off of this energy aspect, and then moves in reverse in time.

The reverse of this reaction, to photons coming together and creating a particle / antiparticle pair involves exactly the opposite, a particle coming from the future flowing backwards in time, reflecting off this energy aspect, and then reversing direction in time and moving forward in time.

This view explains quantum entanglement without requiring “spooky action at a distance”, and without requiring hidden variables, and without just accepting it as a property of matter with no explanation.

If we can understand how we can see the same particle in these different time perspectives, we would come to understand a lot about the nature of time, gravity, and electro-magnetism.

A photon, traveling at the speed of light, would experience infinite time compression and infinite length compression and thus would not experience the flow of time. From the photons perspective, it connects two energetic entities and from the photons perspective there is zero distance between them and zero time needed to transit from one to the other. From the photons perspective it is not traveling through time neither forward nor reverse.

It is interesting to note that, the particle not moving through time from it’s perspective, exhibits neither charge, nor non-relativistic mass. Both of those properties are a function of time. This makes sense if you think about it because since electromagnetic force or gravity acts to accelerate a particle, and accelerating is an increase in velocity, and velocity is a distance moved in a unit of time. If there is no flow of time, then there can be no expression of these forces of charge or mass.

I’m sure people will have objections but I thought I’d put this forth to see what they are.

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Dec 16

Science

I decided to create a blog to talk about various scientific theories and discoveries. There are few areas of science of which I do not have an interest.

It is my belief that scientists tend to be arrogant when it comes to scientific knowledge in that many believe that we already know 99.9% of everything. I think this arrogance gets in the way of actually knowing more about everything. I suspect we know more like .000099% of everything.

The thing that drives me to this belief is a combination of a number of personal experiences that just aren’t explained, commonalities in the anecdotal stories of experiences others have had, discrepancies between existing theories and observation, and just a gut feeling that there is a much greater reality than science as we know it today documents or explains.

So I am going to use this blog to pose questions, point out what I see as problems with some existing theories, point out alternatives, and post worthwhile resources I have found on the net over the years.

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